- The Washington Times - Monday, March 22, 2010

IRAQ

President demands vote recount

BAGHDAD | President Jalal Talabani on Sunday demanded a recount in this month’s historic parliamentary elections, intensifying the political conflict over the not-yet-completed tally and increasing the chances that the vote will be a long, chaotic test of the nascent democracy.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition is narrowly trailing in the overall vote tally to a coalition led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, with 95 percent of the vote counted. Mr. Talabani, whose own coalition is losing to Mr. Allawi’s secular alliance in a key province, invoked the power of his office in calling for a recount.

On his official Web site, Mr. Talabani demanded that the Independent High Electoral Commission manually recount the ballots to “preclude any doubt and misunderstanding” about the results. He said he was making the demand “as the president of the state, authorized to preserve the constitution and to ensure justice and absolute transparency.”

Mr. al-Maliki on Saturday called on the election commission to quickly respond to requests from political blocs for a recount.

The commission has rejected such calls, and Iraqi law empowers neither Mr. Talabani nor Mr. al-Maliki to force the issue. The panel is an independent body appointed by parliament, and submits its results only to the country’s Supreme Court for ratification.

PAKISTAN

U.S. missile strike kills 8 militants

MIRAN SHAH | A U.S. drone aircraft fired two missiles into an al Qaeda and Taliban hideout in northwest Pakistan on the Afghan border Sunday, killing eight militants, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The identities of the militants killed in the Lowari Mandi area of the North Waziristan tribal region were not available.

The United States had stepped up attempts to kill leading militants in North Waziristan since a suicide bombing at a fortified U.S. base across the border in the Afghan province of Khost killed seven CIA employees last December.

Separately, 16 militants were killed when Pakistani helicopters pounded their positions in the tribal regions of Kurram and Orakzai. And three people were killed and 18 wounded when a police vehicle hit a bomb in the city of Quetta.

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban commanders training in Iran

LONDON | Hundreds of insurgents have been trained in Iran to kill NATO forces in Afghanistan, two Taliban commanders told a British Sunday newspaper.

The unnamed commanders told the Sunday Times that Iranian officials paid them to attend three-month courses in desert training camps in southeast Iran.

They were taught how to carry out complex ambushes and lay improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. One of the commanders told the newspaper that the military’s crackdown in Pakistan was forcing Taliban leaders to turn to Iran for assistance and training.

Both men said Iran also supplied them with weapons, often paying nomads to smuggle ammunition, mines and guns across the desert and mountain passes between Iran and western Afghanistan.

VENEZUELA

80 firms punished for power use

CARACAS | Venezuela announced Sunday 24-hour power cutoffs for dozens of companies that have failed to reduce usage in the first punitive measures of a nationwide drive to save energy amid an electricity crisis.

Restaurants, liquor stores, hotels, gyms, car dealerships and a yacht club were on the list of 80 firms in the capital Caracas expected to have their power cut Monday for failing to bring consumption down 20 percent, the state utility said.

The local unit of Japanese firm Sony Corp will be among those sanctioned.

President Hugo Chavez’s government has introduced rationing, and demanded power cuts across the South American OPEC member, to cope with an electricity shortage that is jeopardizing Venezuela’s ability to pull out of a recession.

NEPAL

Thousands bid farewell to Koirala

KATMANDU | Politicians, diplomats and thousands of supporters lined up for hours at a public stadium Sunday in Nepal’s capital to pay respect to Girija Prasad Koirala, the former prime minister remembered for leading efforts to bring democracy to the Himalayan nation.

Mr. Koirala died Saturday at age 86.

Mr. Koirola — who served five terms as prime minister — was president of the Nepali Congress party and led the mass street demonstrations in 2006 that forced then-King Gyanendra to give up his authoritarian rule, reinstate parliament and appoint Mr. Koirala as caretaker prime minister. Soon after that, Mr. Koirala’s government stripped Gyanendra of all his powers and command of the army.

INDIA

New version of cruise tested

NEW DELHI | India on Sunday successfully tested a new, more maneuverable version of its BrahMos supersonic cruise missile that was jointly developed with Russia, an official said.

The missile was fired from a moving warship in the Bay of Bengal, off India’s eastern coast, and successfully hit its target, a defense research official said.

The BrahMos missile, developed with Russia, can carry nuclear and conventional warheads weighing 620 to 660 pounds and has a maximum range of 180 miles. The missile can fly at 2.8 times the speed of sound and can be launched from land, ships, submarines and aircraft.

EGYPT

Donors raise money for Darfur

CAIRO | An international donors conference on Sunday raised $850 million for projects intended to ensure the safe return of nearly 3 million people displaced during the war in Darfur.

The one-day conference in Cairo was organized by the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference and included representatives from the U.S., European nations, U.N. agencies and aid groups.

Host Egypt said the conference highlighted the importance of development in achieving peace and stability in Darfur. It said many participants made unspecified aid pledges on top of the $850 million raised.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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